As I’ve mentioned before, I have definitely changed a lot in the past year. Up until this school year, I was very reluctant to really give students control over their learning. I have always provided choices, and for years I’ve differentiated the activities in the classroom, but the ideas were always my own. I delivered the lesson, I outlined the assignment, and all of my students completed basically the same assignment in the same way, with just a few changes here or there. Thanks to the amazing educators that I learn from on Twitter, this is no longer the case.
Watching the students this week, I realized just how much I have changed. On Wednesday, my class had the incredible opportunity to present as the final keynote speaker at the CNIE Conference at McMaster University in Hamilton. Through the wonders of technology, we presented from our classroom to an auditorium of educators. When the presentation started, two of my students took the iPads back to their desks, and they tweeted about what we were doing. They even added the #cnie2011 hashtag to their tweets.
In the past, I would have been terrified to know that someone was filming these two students, talking about what they were doing, and even chatting with them, and I wasn’t directly overseeing things at the time. Now things are different. The students know what to do, they know how to problem solve when they get stuck, and they understand the importance of using these tools responsibly. They talk with ease about what they are doing and why they are doing it, and if I am with them or not with them at the time, I don’t need to worry: they can be the teachers.
Then Friday came. Angie Harrison (@techieang), a fantastic Grade 2/3 teacher with the York Region District School Board, has shared some lessons with me, and she inspired me to do a variety of mini-lessons on comics. Students have been exploring elements of comics, reading a variety of comics, and creating their own comics too. As a Friday Journal activity, my students worked alone or in partners to make their own comics. Students could use various tools from paper, to the Livescribe Pens, to Bitstrips on the computer, to Super Hero Squad on the computer, to Strip Designer on the iPod Touches and iPads. I briefly introduced the different tools and let the students get started. I really thought I had shared everything until I looked to see what two of my students were doing. They decided to take the iPod Touch with a camera, take photographs of themselves, and insert these photographs into Strip Designer. Then they could be part of their own comic strip. Amazing!!
Just when I thought that I had seen it all, one of my students asked if she could use an iPod Touch and a computer. I asked her how she was going to do this, and she said that she wanted to take photographs of characters from the Super Hero Squad website, take photographs of the results, and put these photographs into Strip Designer to finish off the comic strip. Wow!! A couple of years ago, I would have said, “no,” as soon as my student asked this question, and we all would have missed out on something great. No matter how I combine the tools or what I show the class, the students always surprise me with their own great ideas. They teach me just as much as I teach them, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
This blog post is for my 21 outstanding students that never cease to amaze me with what they know and what they want to learn: thank you!! To other educators out there, what have your students taught you? How have you changed over the years? I would love to hear about your experiences too!
A fantastic post! It’s great to read about teachers and students who not only grow together but trust each other. Personally, I was always looking around that corner, never really satisified. My classes usually had the kids that were “problems” but they weren’t “problems.” They were just inqusitive. Learning to share and trust your students opens doors that deepen not only the learning but personal relationships. I love what you do!
Thanks JoAnn! You’ve definitely inspired me to let go more and learn alongside my students. Thank you so much for that! I think that this has definitely made me a better teacher.
A great way to connect and engage students in learning. Well done!
Thanks Dave! I am very pleased with the results, and I’m glad that I have made this change to my teaching style.
I learn from my students during Explore Time – the last hour of our day in kindergarten. They have complete control over their learning, and I observe. It’s our favorite time of day – theirs and mine – I think because the learning is authentic. I will definitely ponder this in our last days of school – making the whole day as authentic as Explore Time.
Thanks for the comment, Amy! I love the sound of your “explore time.” What a great way to give the students control over their own learning.